A woman accused of binding her elderly father in cling wrap and
suffocating him with a pillow believed he was a "demon" and he
"had to go", a court has been told.
Ederino Beltrame, 70, died in April 2001 with a doctor signing
off his death as from natural causes.
He had been suffering a terminal heart condition and was
hospitalised with a brain haemorrhage in the months before his
An inquest into Mr Beltrame's death was terminated last year
after his granddaughter and primary carer, Romina, came forward
to accuse her mother, Daniella, of his murder.
Daniella Beltrame has pleaded not guilty to murder, forging her
father's will and intimidating her second daughter, Loretta, to
prevent her from giving evidence at the inquest.
Opening committal proceedings against Beltrame today in Sydney's
Central Local Court, prosecutor Stephen Higgins, SC, said
relations between Beltrame and her father were "strained" for
some years and arguments had escalated into violence.
"In the early hours of the 26th of April, 2001 [Romina] was
woken by her mother, the defendant, calling her from her
grandfather's room to come and help," Mr Higgins told the court.
"When she entered the room she saw her grandfather bound to the
bed with [cling wrap] and her mother forcing a pillow onto his
"After a struggle Romina was forced from the room.
"Her mother [followed] a short time later and told her that her
grandfather was a demon and that he had to go.
"When she woke the next morning her grandfather was dead."
Beltrame produced a will in the days following her father's
death which left her his entire estate.
Subsequent examinations of the document revealed his signature
had been forged and typewriter ribbon seized from Beltrame had
been used to make it, Mr Higgins said.
Analysis of Beltrame's computer hard-drive showed she had
accessed internet sites relating to the detection and penalties
for forgery and document examination.
She also had searched sites on death by poisoning, lethal
injection, oxygen deprivation and air embolism, he said.
Beltrame allegedly approached her daughter, Loretta, prior to
the inquest and demanded she not give evidence against her.
"The defendant presented documents which she demanded Loretta
sign," Mr Higgins said.
"Loretta only looked at one of these documents which stated that
she, Loretta, had wanted to kill her grandfather."
Doctor did not examine man
Mr Beltrame's doctor Syed Khamaruz Zaman today told the court
the 70-year-old had been suffering from a terminal heart
condition and was admitted to hospital with a brain haemorrhage
months before he died.
Dr Zaman said he signed Mr Beltrame's
death certificate without examining the man because he presumed
he had died from natural causes.
"He had severe cardiac failure in the terminal stage," Dr
Zaman told the court.
"I was not surprised [to hear of his death] because I knew it
was going to happen and I was expecting the call any time.
"I did not examine him because I had known the patient's
condition and the way he was sinking, I took it for granted ...
that it was a matter of time."
The doctor said he saw no signs of injury or anything to
rouse suspicion when he briefly looked Mr Beltrame over before
signing the certificate.
Beltrame's lawyer John Stratton, SC, showed the doctor a
photograph of an injury to Mr Beltrame's arm resembling bite
marks or scratches with bruising.
The doctor said he didn't recall ever seeing such an injury.
"Had you been informed that there had been an episode of
violence prior to Mr Beltrame's death, would you have issued the
death certificate?" Mr Stratton asked.
"No," Dr Zaman replied.
"I didn't suspect anything, I knew that he was dying of
"But if there was anything [suspicious] ... I would examine
the body in detail."
Forensic pathologist Dianne Little said Mr Beltrame could
have been smothered or died of natural causes.
Binding with cling wrap could have left no restraint injury
to the body and suffocation could leave only minor bruising to
the lining of the eyes and mouth, she said.
"If someone is presented as a heart attack, [authorities] may
not look for subtle injuries," Dr Little said.
Forensic specialist Anthony Moynham agreed it was impossible
to say whether or not Mr Beltrame had died of natural causes.
"It wouldn't be the situation where I would say that he was
close to death, but certainly his health was deteriorating," Dr
"Every day he is going to be a bit worse but how much worse
it is hard to say.
"I can't really rule out natural causes at all."
Wearing a green shirt and black skirt, Beltrame sat
impassively in the dock.
The hearing continues.